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COVID-19 Vaccine rollout for the Disability Sector

Frequently Asked Questions

Date of publication: 13 December 2021

NDS has made every effort to ensure that the information is correct at the time of publishing. Please submit enquiry/feedback if a link to resources on external websites is broken or a resource no longer available. NDS will continue to monitor changes and developments in the Vaccine roll-out and will update this FAQ.

Vaccine rollout

When can I get a COVID-19 vaccination?

Everyone living in Australia, who is 12 years and over, can receive a free COVID-19 vaccine.

Disability services staff, volunteers, clients and their families and household members can go to any Commonwealth vaccination clinic, or state or territory vaccination clinic, pharmacies, GPs or the many vaccination pop-ups that are taking place across Australia.

If you are in one of these groups, identify yourself to your vaccination provider so they can prioritise your vaccination.

Australia's COVID-19 vaccination program will be extended to all children aged 5 to 11, with appointments available from 10 January. 

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation has recommended all children aged 5 to 11 years be vaccinated with a paediatric dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Bookings will be open from 15 December.

Please use the COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder and check your state or territory website for more information about accessing priority vaccinations, vaccination sites, booking preferences and features such as culturally-safe or disability clinics.

What vaccine will I receive?

To be fully vaccinated, you need to have two doses of the same vaccine.

You cannot mix vaccines in your primary course of vaccination unless you have experienced a severe reaction from the first dose.

There are three COVID-19 vaccines available, which have been approved for use by meeting the strict standards for safety, quality, and efficacy of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

  1. Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) vaccine
  2. Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine
  3. Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca) vaccine

Everyone aged 12 and over will have access to Pfizer and Moderna.

People 60 years and over can have the AstraZeneca vaccine if this will not pose an increased risk of side effects in relation to any pre-existing medical conditions.

People aged 18-59 can choose to have AstraZeneca after discussion with a health professional.

Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program will be extended to all children aged 5 to 11 from 10 January 2022 after the Australian Government accepted recommendations from ATAGI.

Research shows that the Pfizer vaccine is up to 91 per cent effective in children. Children will receive two doses of the vaccine, eight weeks apart. The children’s dose is one third of the dose for people aged 12 years and over.

Bookings will be open on 15 December 2021 using the Vaccine Clinic Finder, with appointments available from 10 January 2022.

The Department of Health has further information about vaccinating children against COVID-19. Anyone with questions about getting their children vaccinated should speak with their family doctor.

Easy read documents about children getting COVID-19 vaccines are available.  

Where can I get a vaccine?

The Commonwealth COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder or the National Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 020 080 will direct you to vaccine providers in your area and is the best way to book a vaccination for yourself, a child or someone else with their permission.

Disability vaccination clinics help people with disability, their family and carers and disability workers to access vaccinations in the fastest way possible specific to their circumstances. Find a disability vaccination hub on the Department of Health website or check your state or territory website.

The Commonwealth continues to support in-reach services for NDIS participants living in disability and aged care residential accommodation settings of two or more people.

In addition, the Australian Government, GPs, Primary Health Networks, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, community pharmacies and state and territory governments are providing a wide range of options for people to access a vaccination.

How can people book a COVID-19 vaccination? 

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic finder provides information about eligibility and how to book, either online or by phone, or refer to your state and territory government websites.

Are COVID-19 vaccinations free?

The COVID-19 vaccination is free to everyone living in Australia.

This includes:

  • Australian citizens, permanent residents, holders of temporary visas and those not eligible for Medicare
  • Refugees, asylum seekers, temporary protection visa holders and those on bridging visas
  • People currently in detention facilities including those whose visas have been cancelled.
  • Healthcare providers won’t charge fees to administer the vaccine. People are encouraged to ensure their Medicare card details are up to date before getting a vaccination. 
People who are not eligible for Medicare can get a free vaccine at state or territory vaccination clinics and Commonwealth vaccination clinics. If a vaccination provider charges for any costs associated with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccination (including booking fees),email your complaintto provider.benefits.integrity@health.gov.au,or call the Provider Benefits Integrity Hotline on 1800 314 808 (9.00am to 5.00pm AEST weekdays).

Is there financial support to help disability workers get a vaccination?

NDIS has introduced a COVID-19 vaccine payment for disability support workers. The payment is no longer available in NSW, Victoria, Qld and ACT.

Eligible providers can claim $100 per worker per vaccination dose for vaccinations delivered between:

  • 13 October and 24 December 2021 in the NT
  • 20 October and 31 December 2021 in WA
  • 5 November and 31 December 2021 in Tas
  • 8 November and 31 December 2021 in SA
For providers - coronavirus (COVID-19)

Is there financial support to help people with a disability get a vaccination?

 A national support payment of $150 per NDIS participant is available for disability providers to assist NDIS supported independent living participants to attend offsite locations, including Commonwealth hubs, state clinics and GPs.

For providers - coronavirus (COVID-19)

Do people get proof they have received a vaccine?

People can download or print their immunisation history statement or COVID-19digital certificate through their online Medicare account or via the Express Plus Medicare mobile app.

The immunisation history statement will identify each of the two COVID-19 vaccination doses. The vaccine provider or another health professional can also be asked to print a statement of vaccination. The Services Australia website steps  through how to:

If you’re not eligible for Medicare, you can still get your immunisation history statement online through myGov.

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What if I can’t have a COVID-19 vaccination for medical reasons

If you can’t get any of the approved COVID-19 vaccines for medical reasons, known as a medical contraindication, this will be recorded on your immunisation history statement and COVID-19 digital certificate. You can learn more about getting proof of your medical contraindication at myGov.

To learn more about what counts as a medical exemption and the reasons for an exemption and what does not count as a medical exemption on the Services Australia website.

Check your state or territory COVID-19 vaccine home website for additional requirements of proof from jurisdictions.

Will I need to get a booster dose of the vaccine?

Given the likelihood of ongoing transmission of both Omicron and Delta variants, ATAGI updated its recommendation on 12 December 2021, that booster shots for people aged 18 years and older, can be given five months after their second dose to mitigate against waning immunity and emergence of variants.

A booster dose at five months is particularly important for people with increased exposure or who have risk factors for severe disease.

Either Pfizer or Moderna are recommended for use as a booster vaccine by ATAGI and are considered equally acceptable.  

Use the Vaccine finder to find a clinic and book. The date of the second dose of vaccine is on the COVID-19 digital certificate.

People do not need a third dose or booster dose to be fully vaccinated.

A third dose is not the same as a booster dose. ATAGI defines it as additional COVID-19 doses to reach a comparable (optimal) level of protection for people 12 and older who are severely immunocompromised. Pfizer or Moderna is preferred to AstraZeneca for the third dose of vaccine. The recommended interval for the third dose is a minimum of two months after the second dose.

Easy read documents about booster doses, the third dose and the difference between the third dose and a booster dose are available. 

Vaccines and their effectiveness

Is the COVID-19 vaccination compulsory?

The decision to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Australia is voluntary.  

Disability care workers are a priority group in the vaccine rollout. A healthcare professional will assist to get a vaccination for workers as soon as possible. 

Check your state or territory COVID-19 vaccine home website or Fair Work Australiato see if health orders requiring vaccination of certain groups, or workplaces has been mandated.

People with a disability who are vaccinated can ask their disability support provider to encourage their support worker to be vaccinated if they are living in location where this has not been made mandatory. Where COVID-19 vaccinations are mandated for disability workers and the worker chooses not to be vaccinated, the service provider will need to comply with state or territory requirements regarding unvaccinated workers and make alternative arrangements for the person with a disability.

Disability service providers or support workers who refuse to continue providing supports to a person with a disability because of their decision to receive or not receive the vaccination, may be breaching the NDIS Code of Conduct. 

Is one vaccine more effective than the others?

Both the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective at stopping people from becoming very sick if they catch COVID-19.

The vaccines have been thoroughly assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and found to be effective. See approval of the vaccines.

The vaccines have been thoroughly assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and found to be effective. See approval of the vaccines.

The vaccines train your immune system to recognise and clear out the virus, before it makes you seriously ill. Your body's immune system builds this protection over time. You are fully protected 7 to 14 days after your second dose.

Easy read documents about AstraZeneca and Pfizer are available.

Answers to common questions on COVID-19 vaccines are available in 63 languages.

Additional easy read resources are listed in this FAQ in the Vaccine resources section.

How effective is the COVID-19 vaccination in preventing illness?

The vaccines will prevent people from getting severely ill or dying. They train the immune system to recognise and clear out the virus, before it makes people seriously ill.

The immune system builds this protection over time. People are fully protected seven to 14 days after your second dose. 

Will each new COVID-19 variant require a new vaccine?

The three vaccines in Australia, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer, have proven to be effective against the mutated variants that have emerged. Even though those vaccines were originally developed looking at the original strain or the Alpha strain, they have maintained a high level of effectiveness against the Delta strain. Studies into the Omicron variant are underway globally and in Australia.

Vaccine manufacturers have signalled they are examining the need for, and potential development o,f COVID-19 vaccines that may be more effective against new variants.

Evidence on the benefits and risks of booster doses is still limited but supports the benefit and safety of booster vaccination, particularly in high-risk groups.  

Can people have the flu and COVID-19 vaccinations at the same time?

ATAGI recommends a minimum of seven days, before or after any COVID-19 Vaccine doses, and any other vaccination including the seasonal flu.

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Vaccine hesitancy

Can COVID-19 vaccines alter my DNA?

COVID-19 vaccinesdo not alter your DNA.. 

There is a crucial difference between mRNA and DNA. 

DNA, which makes up our genetic code, is larger, double-stranded and very long. The mRNA is a single stranded copy of a small part of the DNA, which is often released to send instructions to other parts of the cell. 

DNA is stored in the protected centre of our cells – the nucleus. The mRNA is broken down quickly by the body. It never enters the nucleus and cannot affect or combine with our DNA to change our genetic code. 

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines teach the cell how to make a protein that triggers an immune response specific to COVID-19. The vaccines work with the body’s natural defences to develop immunity to disease.

What information is available for people who are unsure about having a COVID-19 vaccination?

Vaccine hesitancy is not uncommon as many people are nervous about having an injection of any kind. 

Disability providers can encourage staff or people with disabilities who have any concerns about receiving the vaccination to discuss these with their GP or health practitioner.  

Providers can also make use of resources developed by DoH to answer concerns about COVID-19 vaccinations, including:

NDS resources to encourage vaccine uptake and reduce hesitancy include:

Were COVID-19 vaccines developed too quickly to be safe?

The COVID-19 vaccine development process was unique as it they could be developed safely in a much faster timeline due to the researchers, scientists, manufacturers, and distributors from around the world working in close collaboration. The development of these began from the earliest stages of the pandemic and included significant funding from across the world to support the process.

The vaccines available in Australia have been approved by meeting the strict standards of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The TGA rigorously assessed each one for quality, safety, and efficacy before recommending it to the Australian Government.

For more detailed information on the COVID-19 vaccine approval processes:

This DoH video describes the TGA process of how they assess and approve vaccines.

Are there side effects from the vaccines? 

The side effects of the vaccines vary from one person to another with most people not reporting any at all. 

Most side effects are mild and don’t last for long. This might include pain where you were injected, fever or muscle aches.  Symptoms usually resolve within 24-48 hours and similar to flu-like symptoms.

DoH has information on vaccine safety and side effects.

See your doctor, nurse, or go directly to the hospital if:

  • you have a reaction that you consider severe or unexpected
  • you are concerned about your condition after vaccination.

A COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effect Checker will assist anyone with concerns after their vaccination, or contact the National Coronavirus Helpline, 1800 020 080, 24 hours a day.

Anyone with concerns about post-vaccine symptoms can also contact the NPS MedicineWise adverse medicine events line, or TGA Home - Adverse event reporting

Other resources:

Does AstraZeneca cause blood clots?

Millions of doses have been administered around the world to adults of all ages with very few serious side effects. However, there has been a link established between the AstraZeneca vaccine and a very rare but serious side effect called thrombosis in combination with thrombocytopenia.

There is an extremely low chance of this side effect, which may occur in around 4-6 people in every million after being vaccinated.

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine for people:

  • aged 60 and over
  • aged 18 to 59 in outbreak areas, if they do not have immediate access to Comirnaty (Pfizer) or Spikevax (Moderna).

If you are aged 18 to 59, you can choose to get protected with the AstraZeneca vaccine:

  • following an assessment by a qualified health professional
  • if you provide verbal or written consent. 

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Employer and workplace information

How should providers have conversations with staff about getting vaccinated?

Disability service providers should facilitate open conversations with empathy and take the time to listen to any questions or concerns from their employees. Service providers should be prepared to provide advice and data, and to encourage employees to discuss any concerns with their GP.

Public health orders differ between State and Territory governments regarding the mandates for COVID-19 vaccinations and the disability workforce. It is critical that service providers facilitate conversations and provide information to their employees about the benefits and effectiveness of getting vaccinated.

For more information on COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace, and training on how to have these conversations visit Fair Work

How should disability services staff prepare for the onsite COVID-19 vaccination?

Disability workers receiving a vaccination from the in-reach vaccination team must complete the consent form for COVID-19 vaccination, as does every Australian receiving a vaccine.

Providers should encourage staff to complete the form well ahead of the onsite visit, allowing plenty of time for workers to fully understand the information about the vaccines and the brand of vaccine they will be offered, the vaccination schedule and whether they wish to consult with a GP. 

The vaccine provider can refer a staff member to their health practitioner for additional advice if they feel someone does not fully understand the process or still has questions. If this occurs, the staff member will not miss out if they are advised it is safe to proceed, however may need to book with a local vaccine provider.

The  Vaccine Clinic Finder provides information about eligibility and how to book, either online or by phone or refer to your state or territory government websites

What proof of eligibility will staff need if they go to a vaccination clinic? 

Staff members who are not vaccinated at their workplace, can receive a vaccination from a state or territory vaccination clinic or a pop-up disability vaccine hub.  

They may need to provide evidence of eligibility if they do not meet other eligibility criteria (age) for their state or territory:

  1. Proof of Occupation ID card
  2. Letter from their employer confirming they are currently employed in a disability setting

If neither option above is available, an individual can complete the Vaccine Eligibility Declaration Form in advance and given to the Vaccine Provider at the time of appointment for vaccination.

A Medicare card will also be required in GP clinics. People who do not a have Medicare, such as refugees, are still eligible for a free vaccine.

Should residential staff be paid to attend an onsite vaccination clinic if they are not rostered for work?

There is currently no information from the DoH regarding staff payments to attend an in-reach vaccination at their worksite or anywhere else to receive their vaccination if they are not rostered to work on the day the vaccinations are being provided.

The COVID-19 vaccine is free for everyone. Anyone who receives this from a GP will be asked for their Medicare card as GPs can bulk bill for their time.  

 Individuals who do not have a Medicare card will still be able to access a free vaccine - eg asylum seekers.

Get ready for your COVID-19 vaccinations - Services Australia

If an employer recommends COVID-19 vaccinations, can staff who experience serious side effects seek compensation?

While the Australian Government strongly supports immunisation, it is not compulsory. Disability sector workers maintain the right to choose whether to receive a vaccination.

The Government is not pursuing a no-fault COVID-19 vaccine injury compensation scheme. Serious side effects are extremely rare. 

Service Providers can only advise staff and people with disabilities to consider having the COVID-19 vaccinations. If they have any concerns regarding side effects and their own health conditions they need to consult with their own GP or through a local clinic to discuss these and make their own informed decision to accept or refuse the COVID-19 vaccination available to them. This is a voluntary decision.

It is not the responsibility of disability providers to address these issues. Identifying where a person can find information that will assist with their decision making and discussion with a GP supports staff and individuals with a disability to access information.   

If staff experience side effects or symptoms after their vaccination, what should they do? 

The DoH Vaccine Taskforce noted in an early Q&A forum with disability providers that anyone who is experiencing symptoms should stay at home. 

Most side effects are mild and don’t last for long. This might include pain where you were injected, fever or muscle aches.  Symptoms usually resolve within 24-48 hours and similar to flu-like symptoms

As common symptoms vary from non-existent through to feeling unwell and needing to rest, individuals will need to make their own judgement regarding staying home, seeking additional medical advice or fitness to attend work as usual.

DoH has information on side effects for Pfizer and AstraZeneca

See your doctor, nurse, or go directly to the hospital if:

  • you have a reaction that you consider severe or unexpected
  • you are concerned about your condition after vaccination.

A COVID-19 Vaccine Side Effect Checker will assist anyone with concerns after their vaccination, or contact the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080, 24 hours a day.

Anyone with concerns about post-vaccine symptoms can also contact the NPS MedicineWise Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237, 7 days a week 8.00am - 8.00pm AEST/AEDT  

or

TGA Home - Adverse event reporting  

Other resources:

Onsite Vaccine Providers will monitor all individuals for 15 minutes after their vaccination.

Disability providers will need to report any adverse reactions by staff or clients that occur following a COVID-19 vaccination provided by the in-reach vaccination team.

Service providers must ensure that staff or people living with disabilities know who to contact for assistance if any changes or concerns in their health occur in the first 24 hours and how to report an adverse event.   

State and Territory Government reporting contact details for any adverse reactions are listed on the SAFEVAC website.

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Do people with symptoms after their vaccination need to have a COVID test?  

The COVID-19 vaccines do not contain the COVID-19 virus. It is impossible to get COVID-19 from these vaccines.  However, the vaccination does not provide immediate protection from COVID-19.

Anyone who reports COVID-19 symptoms in the first 48 hours after their vaccination, such as respiratory symptoms or loss of smell and not identified as typical side effects, is advised to seek a COVID-19 test.

Further information on symptoms is available on the DoH website.

If a disability worker shows COVID-19 symptoms after a vaccination, do we apply suspected COVID protocols?  

In this situation, you would apply relevant suspected COVID-19 case protocols and contact your State or Territory government health department for further advice.

Can a service provider require an employee to provide evidence of receiving vaccinations?

The Fair Work Commission has noted that directing an employee to provide evidence of vaccination is likely to raise privacy issues.

Any worker who has received the COVID-19 vaccination and agrees to provide evidence can access their immunisation record from the Australian Immunisation Register, through their Medicare account on MyGov or through a Unique Healthcare Identifier for anyone who does not have a Medicare account.

The Australian Fair Work Ombudsman website provides information and guidance about coronavirus vaccinations and the workplace for employers and employees.

Are COVID-19 vaccinations mandated for disability workers?  

State and territory governments have made public health orders that require disability workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Employers and workers need to comply with public health orders and directions that apply to them in their State or territory.

NDS has adopted a policy decision in favour of Federal, State or Territory governments mandating that disability direct care workers, regardless of the setting and circumstances of this work, be required to have the COVID-19 vaccination. 

This policy decision has been formed based on sector feedback and with the aim of prioritising the safety of all people with a disability and the disability workforce. National Disability Services: vaccine must be mandatory.

Employers considering mandating the vaccine would need to consider their own legal and workplace industrial agreement perspectives.  

Refer to the Fair Work Commission for updates regarding mandating COVID-19 vaccinations.

Queensland is currently the only state or territory to mandate the requirement for a COVID vaccination for the health sector including health service employees and Queensland ambulance service employees and contractors who may have direct contact with a COVID-19 patient. More details available on the Qld Health website.

Can a service provider specify a COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory for a new employee?

Fair Work Commission states in most circumstances an employer may be able to require a prospective employee to be vaccinated against coronavirus.
Employers should first consider their obligations and responsibilities - for example, under general protections or anti-discrimination laws - before requiring that a prospective employee be vaccinated before commencing employment.

More information on discrimination protections under the Fair Work Act and guidance about COVID-19 vaccinations and the workplace for employers and employees looking for clarity on their workplace rights and obligations is available on the commission’s website.

NDS advises IR and legal advice should always be sought regarding any decisions to include evidence of vaccination status as a prerequisite for specific positions.

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Preparing clients for vaccinations

Eligibility and access

People with disability are eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccine if they:

  • are an NDIS participant aged 16 years or older
  • are living with a significant disability requiring frequent assistance with activities of daily living
  • attend centre-based services (day programs, respite care, supported employment)
  • individuals with a disability, who are not an NDIS participant, must be aged 40 years or over if they do not fit any other eligibility criteria. DoH has produced toolkits to support service providers working in aged care and in disability residential settings. 

Toolkits

COVID-19 vaccination – Disability service providers toolkit
COVID-19 vaccine aged care readiness toolkit

The toolkits include a range of fact sheets, checklists, information for providers, how to organise consent in advance, what to expect before, during and 
after the in-reach vaccination team has been on site.

Other resources to support staff and people with disabilities to prepare for their vaccinations, including consent related documents, are included in these FAQs.

Support workers and carers

Support workers, carers (paid and unpaid) and volunteers are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they directly support people with disability of any age:

  • in the person’s home
  • at a disability residential service,
  • at a respite facility
  • in an educational setting,
  • at a supported employment setting,
  • with accessing leisure or community facilities
  • with transport or advocacy services

Carers of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants (paid and unpaid) are eligible for vaccination.

You will need to provide carers documentation or proof of occupation (ID card, letter from employer or Eligibility Declaration Form) to prove eligibility.

Eligible people under these requirements may also include healthcare workers, allied health workers, teachers in special schools, students on placement, advocates, or administration or maintenance/cleaning staff in these settings.

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Consent for people requiring decision making support

How do we organise informed consent for people living with a disability who require support with decision-making? 

To the extent that they are able, a person with disability should always be included in any decision that involves them, especially regarding their own health.

The NDIS Commission has released resources to assist with the process of gaining consent. Service providers are asked to give participants appropriate time to digest information and for participants to involve others in the decision-making process, if they wish.

Refer to the NDIS COVID-19 vaccine fact sheet: Informed consent, preparing for the vaccine, restrictive practices.

DoH has produced resources to assist disability providers, carers and people with disabilities understand the process for giving informed consent to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination:

The legislation on consent and who can be a substitute decision-maker varies in states and territories, with each being bound by their own legislation.

Organisations that will assist in each state and territory are listed below:

ACT: Support for People with Disability, ACT Community Services
NSW: NSW Trustee and Guardian 
NT: NT COVID-19 Vaccine roll-out
QLD: Office of the Public Guardian: Consent process for COVID-19 vaccination 
SA: Australian Government Information for people with disability about COVID-19 vaccines
TAS: Australian Government Information for people with disability about COVID-19 vaccines
VIC: Guideline on the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine - Office of the Public Advocate
WA: Making Treatment Decisions information from the Public Advocate

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Useful resources

Where can we locate vaccine information in other languages or in formats that are easier to understand? 

A range of resources and information have been developed to meet a variety of accessible needs. We have included these in sections related to their target audiences below. 

General resources

Disability providers can access useful resources they can use to inform and support their clients, staff, families, carers and volunteers to make a decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccination program. Feeling well-informed and safe will assist in reducing the level of vaccine hesitancy in the disability sector.

Rollout phases and eligibility 

The Australian Department of Health has a webpage with COVID-19 vaccine information and resources to help disability service providers plan for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Resources include:

More COVID-19 information is available on the DoH website in:

Decision making guides and consent  

Consent – Information for providers from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI)  is a 12-page guidance for immunisation providers for gaining informed consent to COVID-19 vaccination, and answers to some frequently asked clinical questions.

Other guidance materials from ATAGI include:

Quick Links – vaccinations

As a result of the continual updating of state and territory vaccine rollout operations, the links to their separate websites are provided for access to current information.

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